Potential-enstrophy lengthscale for the turbulent/nonturbulent interface in stratified flow

Marco Boetti, Maarten Van Reeuwijk, Alexander Liberzon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study properties of the turbulent/nonturbulent interface (TNTI) between two layers of stratified fluids through direct numerical simulations (DNSs). Zero mean shear forcing creates moderate turbulence in one of the layers with the Taylor microscale Reynolds numbers in the mixed region of Reλ=35,44. We focus on the similarities and differences of the properties of stratified TNTIs due to two distinct types of forcing: (a) convection due to a boundary heat source and (b) agitation resembling a vertically oscillating grid experiment. Similarly to other stratified flows, the small scale dynamics of the TNTI in the present DNSs differ from what would be expected in comparable yet unstratified TNTIs. The interface cannot be indeed uniquely identified by the commonly used vorticity ω. Instead, the potential enstrophy Π2 is shown to be the most appropriate marker in these flow cases. It is emphasized that the Kolmogorov lengthscale ηK∼ν/ω is not representative of the small scale dynamics of the interface. Hence, an alternative lengthscale, ηΠ, is defined, in analogy to the Kolmogorov scale, based on the potential enstrophy, ηΠ=(ν3/Π∗)1/6, being Π∗=|g/ρ0Π|. The conditionally averaged profiles of potential enstrophy Π2, enstrophy ω2, and turbulent kinetic energy dissipation ϵ of the two distinctly different turbulence forcing cases collapsed when scaled by ηΠ at different time instants in each simulation. This implies not only the self-similarity of the small scale statistics of the TNTI in either of the two cases, but also the similarity between the statistics of the two different turbulent flows in the proximity of TNTI.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA93
JournalPhysical Review Fluids
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Potential-enstrophy lengthscale for the turbulent/nonturbulent interface in stratified flow'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this